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Scientific Progress in the Early Identification of Alzheimer’s Disease

The Emerging Role of Neuropsychology

At the Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society (INS) held in February, 2018, a symposium was held debating the development of biomarkers to assist with the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. 

This symposium became the talk of the meeting, in part based on a group of researchers that Dr. Rod Swenson is a member of.  The group is known as CENDA (Consortium for the Examination of Neuropsychological Data in Aging). 

The Long-Standing Amyloid Hypothesis

Three leading neuropsychologists from that group, Dr. Adam Brickman, Dr. Mark Bondi, and Dr. Jennifer Manly, presented their neuropsychological findings that call into question the “Amyloid Cascade” hypothesis of Alzheimer’s disease.

This is a hypothesis that has prevailed for decades, yet has resulted in no meaningful progress in terms of treating Alzheimer’s disease.  A major reason for this failure may stem from the lack of neuropsychological precision used in prior research, such that groups being studied may not have been reliably identified. 

Looking to the Future

Newer research has led to the proposal of using better criteria to identify patients who may eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease, with particular emphasis on the process based errors patients make on neuropsychological tests. 

These “neuropsychological biomarkers” show promise in refining precision-medicine approaches and therefore leading to medications and other biomarkers that may actually make a difference in changing the course of this major medical problem.

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